“Freedom Lies In Being Bold.” ~ Robert Frost
International Women’s Day (IWD) is a globally-recognized day that celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender equality.
While many women feel passionate about gender equality (just ask the millions of women who’ve marched across the globe this past January 2016!), we all grapple with how to make a real, lasting difference. Most of us simply don’t have the time to dedicate enormous effort and energy to this cause because, well, we actually have lots of other obligations, like working, taking care of our families, and many additional responsibilities. So, what can we do to “be bold for change?”
The good news is that true change rarely occurs because of a single “a-ha” moment. Frankly, we all know that a sustained commitment by a large group of people is required to achieve gender equality. But, there are things we can do every day to make a difference and with the help of our friends at International Women’s Day, we’ve got some fantastic ways that you can be bold for change.
- Challenge Bias and Inequality
Recently, I read a story about a single mom who dressed up as a man to attend a “Doughnuts and Dads” event at her son’s school. She didn’t want her son to feel excluded simply because his father was not in his life. The story made national news. Why? Because this mother was brave enough to disrupt the status quo and she refused to be sidelined simply because she was a woman. If you pay attention, the messages of inequality are all around us — advertisements that show only women doing domestic work; fathers being asked to coach their son’s sports teams; men getting paid more than women because they supposedly are the breadwinners of the family. If you witness these inequities, speak out against them. Explain to your kids that things can and should be different.
- Campaign Against Violence
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in three women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. That statistic is worth repeating — one in three women will experience domestic violence. This figure is almost unimaginable. Speak out against violence against women. Educate your children — both sons and daughters —that domestic violence of any kind is a crime and challenge those who blame the victims. If you do have the time, find a local domestic violence charity to volunteer.
3. Forge for Women’s Advancement.
This is an easy one — support women-owned and operated companies! Frequent women-owned boutiques; buy from women-owned companies, and invest your money with women financial advisors. Also, do your research and support companies that support women! Do not give your hard earned dollars to companies that don’t have any female leadership. Finally, if you’re in a position within a company to enforce change, make diversity a priority and create an environment that supports and creates more opportunities for women.
- Celebrate Women’s Achievements
Madeleine Albright famously said, “there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.” Women must support other women. Yet, for some reason, women at times want to want to bring each other down. If we are ever to reach gender equality, we must champion one another. For me, the first step is to stop judging another woman’s journey. We do not have to walk identical paths in life — some women get married; some remain single; some have children; some do not; some opt out of the workforce; others do not. The point is — other women’s choices should only be important to them. We all should walk our own journey but we should walk it together in the same direction — towards equality. And, we must always, always, always celebrate each other.
- Champion Women’s Education
Education is the single most important factor for ensuring the health and prosperity of women and girls. Young women today must understand that, at a minimum, they must be able to financially support themselves. Financial independence is freedom. Alternatively, financial dependence can result in very difficult circumstances and uneven playing fields. We must encourage girls to get educated, especially in developing and in-demand fields such as STEM. We must also support women inventors and entrepreneurs.
- Educate Your Kids
I’ve saved the best for last. There is simply no more profound impact we can have on gender equality than by educating our sons and daughters, and even more important, teaching them by example. Ensure your house reflect the values of gender equality that you wish to see in the world. By doing so, we will be raising a generation of men and women who think gender equality is the norm.